Roundtables talk clean energy expansion following Northeast Biodiesel opening

  • Attendees during a solar discussion at Northeast Biodiesel on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

  • Scott Reed and Alphonse Knight in the Co-op Power tent at Saturday’s celebration at Northeast Biodiesel. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

  • Attendees during the biodiesel industry overview discussion on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

  • Lynn Benander, of Co-op Power, speaks during the solar discussion at Northeast Biodiesel’s celebration on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer
Published: 10/2/2022 8:52:19 PM

GREENFIELD — With Northeast Biodiesel now up and running, the business welcomed residents to learn more about producing fuel using recycled vegetable oil, as well as other clean energy endeavors, during a celebration Saturday.

Clean energy experts offered tours of the new business in the Interstate 91 Industrial Park and educated people on ways they can support the community biofuel cycle. Local partners, such as restaurants and cafeterias, can sell their used cooking oil directly to Northeast Biodiesel to be turned into fuel. Homeowners and renters can then get bioheat for their home at a discounted rate by joining Co-op Power’s Heating Fuel Group, or if people purchase more than 2,000 gallons a year, they can purchase directly from Northeast Biodiesel. The effort will help replace petroleum-based fuels and oil heating systems.

While many of Saturday’s roundtable discussions focused on biodiesel, others were about different features in clean energy. One roundtable discussion focused on how municipalities and nonprofits can use new incentives from the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act to build solar arrays.

Dwayne Breger, director of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Clean Energy Extension, explained that when the solar industry first took off, most solar panels were owned by third parties that were mostly tied to investment firms connected to Wall Street.

“These projects were great for greenhouse gas emissions, but bad for wealth creation.” Breger said. He explained these projects often cut people’s energy bills by 10% to 15%, but continue to exacerbate the unequal wealth distribution in the country.

Lynn Benander of Co-op Power explained there has been a push for solar ownership, but not without barriers. Incentives for solar have come from the federal government as a tax credit for 26% of the cost of building. The only problem with this model is that nonprofits and municipalities hoping to install solar do not pay taxes, so they need to pay the entire cost for solar.

With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, Benander explained, nonprofits and municipalities will now be able to be refunded or be able to sell the tax credits, allowing them to build solar at this discounted cost. Additionally, the incentive rate has gone up to 30%, with additional bonuses that can pay for up to 50% of the solar project.

The Inflation Reduction Act also extended these incentives. Before this year, these incentives were renewed every two years. This led to a feeling of uncertainty in the solar industry. The Inflation Reduction Act has now extended the tax credits to 2031, allowing for more permanence in the projects.

Breger explained he hopes this can be the first step in helping lower-income people have access to owning solar. The Inflation Reduction Act only provides municipalities and nonprofits with these incentives, not low-income people, but Breger explained expanding access is a first step in the right direction.

Bella Levavi can be reached at blevavi@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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